Fiddlehead fest 02008

It must be spring. The fiddleheads are back.

The first batch of fiddlehead, aka ostrich, ferns of the season arrived at Fairway on Wednesday—4:30 on the nose—the produce manager told me when I called to inquire. The first shipment came in from Oregon and cost $19.95 per pound. Not thrifty, nor local, but this spring treat is not something to eat more than an ounce or two of anyway. Also, I checked at the Greenmarket and they’re not available locally, yet.

Fiddleheads have a delectable taste—perhaps a cross between asparagus and artichoke. Though this first batch tasted more like something green picked from the forest’s edge in Oregon. A few of them tasted closer to how they should. On a nutritional note, according to Wildman Steve Brill’s website and upcoming new self-published book, Shoots and Greens of Early Spring, fiddleheads provide vitamins A, niacin, and some C, as well as iron and trace amounts of minerals. Though they’re not associated with any holistic medicinal purposes.

Tonight I ate fiddleheads with some scrambled eggs. I felt like keeping it simple since I’m sequestered this weekend writing and have been grazing nonstop as it is.

Sautéed Oregon fiddlehead ferns
A snack for one

To prepare fiddleheads, first wash them and use your fingers to brush off the tiny orange leaflets. In a small pan, steam the fiddleheads for a minute or so. Drain the water, add a pat of good butter, and sauté the fiddleheads for a few minutes. I like to sauté them until they become a little crisp. Serve with a minuscule pinch of sel and a crack of piper.

A word of caution..

Some studies point to fiddlehead ferns being carcinogenic. A substance found in fiddleheads, ptaquiloside, may be a related cause of some gastrointestinal cancers. The risk is likely very low as fiddleheads are consumed in such small quantities, and only for a very brief season in spring. If you’re interested to read more, a search for keywords “fiddlehead ferns” or “ptaquiloside” on Google Scholar is a good way to go. If you don’t have academic access to entire articles, abstracts provide a helpful summary.

A hunt for green fiddleheads..

Later this month on April 20th, Wildman Steve Brill expects to find fiddleheads on the Crestwood Riverbank foraging tour up in Westchester. I chatted with Wildman Steve yesterday afternoon. He told me he’s never found fiddleheads in Gotham parks, but Crestwood has a good season, albeit brief—lasting only about two weeks—at the end of April. Come along and save yourself the $19.95 a pound and enjoy a walkabout in nature.

Rites of spring..

The fine folks up in Randolph, Vermont hold an annual fiddlehead festival. This year’s festival is May 3rd. If you’re in the area and have a chance to check it out, please let Daily Prandium know. We’ll be finishing a term paper and will be sequestered through the last edit.

Buen provecho..

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